NationsBank Corp. said it expects to replace about half of Boatmen's Bancshares bank presidents when it completes its $9.5 billion merger.

Boatmen's bank presidents in Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, and most markets in Missouri are likely to retain their jobs, while NationsBank plans to replace presidents in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. In Texas, where Boatmen's has a minor presence, the president of its Amarillo bank, Dan Powell, is slated to become vice chairman of NationsBank Texas.

The announcement by NationsBank indicates the $188 billion-asset company is well along in its planning for the expected acquisition of the $41 billion-asset Boatmen's. The deal is scheduled to close in January.

Charlotte-based NationsBank - apparently sensitive to its image as an out-of-towner - would keep key retail and commercial bank executives in place in Boatmen's home state of Missouri.

Richard Jensen, central region president at Boatmen's St. Louis bank, is to become that unit's president when NationsBank takes over. He is to replace John Morton, who was promoted to president of NationsBank's private client group. Pat Payne, a NationsBank executive in Atlanta, will move to St. Louis to fill the newly created position of consumer regional executive for St. Louis.

"NationsBank is leaving several of Boatmen's people in place. They're familiar with the markets and customers," said James Weber, an analyst with A.G. Edwards & Sons Inc. in St. Louis.

Other appointees from the NationsBank side include Brian R. Foster, who will become president of NationsBank Arkansas, and David S. Bair, who will head the New Mexico banks.

Mr. Foster, who oversees small business and affluent professionals in Georgia, is to replace Charles B. "Chip" Dudley 3d, who will resign once the merger is completed.

Mr. Bair is to replace Ike Kalangis, 59, who will take early retirement immediately following the acquisition.

The announcements follow the planned promotions of Boatmen's vice chairmen Gregory Curl, who will become vice chairman for corporate development at NationsBank, and Samuel Hayes, who will be named president of NationsBank West. Reporting to Mr. Hayes will be NationsBank executives David Darnell, who will be president of NationsBank Midwest, and Tim Arnoult, president of NationsBank Southwest.

NationsBank is working with a transition team of about 200 people, split between Boatmen's and NationsBank officials, said the acquirer's transition spokeswoman, Pamela McQuitty.

"They probably kept a few more (Boatmen's executives) than I initially anticipated," said Michael Mayo, an analyst with Lehman Brothers, "though this should preserve the current franchise while improving the product depth."

Mr. Mayo said NationsBank plans to use existing Boatmen's employees to push its products.

While the company has made no official announcement, analysts believe it will cut at least 2,000 of Boatmen's 21,000 jobs.

Among the remaining employees, NationsBank will be stressing profitability, Mr. Mayo said. NationsBank generates $140,000 per employee, while Boatmen's yields only $129,000 per employee, he noted.

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